Visual artist turned jewellery designer Austin Smith uses his own face as his canvas. With a mix of textiles, self portraiture and mixed media designs, Smith is creating an art form all his own.
Smith’s work is unique and hard to define. It spans genres and mediums; barbed wire, chains, plastic roses, nails, and lit candles all par for the course in his work’s eccentric array.
The “looks” that Smith creates are intensely visually rich. Elements of punk, bondage, queer masculinity, baroque, deathrock, and goth combine in his signature style.
In an interview with Paper Magazine, Smith said,
“I edit on the computer, I photograph, I sculpt things, I design things. I’m not just painting. I’m not just screen printing. I’m putting in so many different mediums to get an end result and that’s what always keeps it fresh to me, because I always have to do a different step or figure out how to do something new.”
Smith’s art background is clear in his work. His Bachelor of Fine Arts shines through, first as a print developer, designer, and screen printer. For Smith, Jewellery is a logical next step.
Moving from the suburbs to New York City had a huge effect on Austin, allowing him to meet new, creative people.
Speaking to Dazed Digital, Smith said,
“I started out experimenting with fashion for parties with my friends and began to make a deeper creative connection with what I was doing…
But moving to NYC after finishing school led me to meet a lot of new amazing creative people that inspire me to keep expanding my practice and push myself.”
This connection to the edgy, nightlife scene informs Empty Jewels, infusing the brand with a sense of the dark and perverse. This is balanced by a playful, eclectic and youthful energy. It is at once grunge and glam: a duality.
Smith’s designs hark back to the Club Kid scene, a group of young personalities that epitomised the New York nightclub culture in the 1980s.
Smith told Paper Magazine,
“I wanted to take away something from the art I was making at home and be able to wear it out in public because I don’t always want to look like a freaking demon, but I still like to have something that I’m wearing represent me.”
Smith has also had forays into the world of modelling. In 2018, he was asked to walk for Moschino, wearing his trademark look: temporary tattoos covering his face and head.
And, Empty Jewels has gained some high-profile fans.“The Claw” earring was recently worn by Adam Lambert in an appearance on Good Morning America.
We can’t wait to see what’s next in store. The future for Austin Smith is bright, avant-garde and definitely covered in chainmail.
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